Toyota Prius c Sales Limited by Production, Export Constraints in Japan

Toyota is rushing to increase production capacity for the new Prius c hatchback, as demand for the hybrid car soars both in the U.S. and Japan. Even though initial demand for the car has been strong in our market, Automotive News reveals that Toyota is only building 6000 copies of the Prius c each month for the U.S. Despite the strong demand for the car here, however, Toyota has no plans to build the Prius c on American soil.

The Prius c went on sale in the U.S. on March 12, and by March 15 had already sold 1201 copies. Toyota proudly notes that those three days of sales bested sales of the Chevrolet Volt (1023 sold) and Nissan Leaf (478 sold) for the entire month of February.However, the Prius c's first three days of sales also eclipsed sales of several other Toyota vehicles for the entire month of February: the Toyota FJ Cruiser (1047 sales) and Land Cruiser (122 sales), Scion iQ (864) and xD (818), Lexus HS250h (150), Lexus LS (517), Lexus GX (703), and Lexus LX (383).

American sales of the Prius c are in trouble because the Japanese market already has a 120,000-car backlog of orders, and a struggling Yen-dollar exchange rate means Toyota is prioritizing selling cars domestically, where profits can be higher. The Prius c is built in Iwate, Japan, at a rate of about 30,000 cars per month or 360,000 annually.About 20 percent of all units produced are sold outside of Japan.

Originally, Toyota planned to build only 20,000 copies of the Prius c per month.The strong demand means Toyota needs more production capacity in Iwante. The company will make a series of changes to improve efficiency and speed at the assembly plant, and also will move assembly of the Japanese-market Toyota Ractis from Iwante to a different plant in Japan.

Despite strong demand for the car here, a Toyota spokesman told us the company doesn't have any plans to build the Prius c in the U.S. Currently the Prius, the Prius V, the Prius c, and the Prius plug-in are all built in Japan. However, Toyota expects demand for the new Prius c to remain strong through the rest of this year, especially if gas prices continue to rise. The company predicts it will sell 220,000 examples of all Prius models combined this year -- in 2011, Toyota sold 136,463 Prius models in the U.S.

Sources: Automotive News, Toyota

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